John Swinney claims his ‘hands are tied’ on secret vaccine numbers

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JOHN Swinney has claimed he cannot reveal how many of the 700,000 Covid vaccine doses allocated to Scotland have so far arrived in the country, information that could expose embarrassing delays in supplying GPs.  

The deputy First Minister said his “hands were tied” by the UK Government’s fear of publicising vaccine figures for reasons of commercial confidentiality.

It was reported last week that UK ministers feared other countries might lean on vaccine manufacturers to divert UK stocks to them if they knew how much the UK was getting.

A Scottish Government vaccine deployment plan which quoted week-by-week figures was withdrawn last week after the UK Government complained.

There was criticism at Holyrood yesterday that only 264,000 of Scotland’s allocation of 717,000 doses have so far been administered.

Asked about the gap on BBC Radio Scotland, Mr Swinney said there was a difference between being given an allocation and physically taking receipt of the vaccine.

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Asked how many doses the Scottish Government was in receipt of, he replied: “My hands are rather tied about how much I can talk to you about specific numbers.

“What I can say to you is that Scotland has an allocation of vaccination doses which we draw down through the supplier of the vaccine.”

He confirmed the allocation was 700,000 but refused to say how many of those had yet arrived in Scotland.

He said the doses had to be checked by the principal distributor then physically distributed to Scotland as a national allocation, then physically distributed to 1100 locations around Scotland, “and all of that takes time”.

He said: “My hands are tied by the restrictions the UK Government imposed on us last week. 

“We have taken steps to make sure that when vaccines become available we distribute them to the health and care system around the country.”

Pressed on why there was a shortage in GP surgeries, Mr Swinney said: “There’s a programme to make sure the vaccine gets to GP practices when they become available, when they come into the hands of the Scottish Government.

“We do not have that volume of vaccine in our hands. We cannot distribute it yet. It may have been allocated to us, and that’s very welcome.

“We will get it over the next few weeks.

“Which is why I can confidently say to you that the commitments we have given, that all over-80s for example will be  vaccinate by the end of the first week in February is a commitment that will be fulfilled.”

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Last week health Secretary Jeane Freeman said all over 80s would be vaccinated “by the end of this month, the very beginning of February”.

Nicola Sturgeon yesterday said the UK Government had had “a hissy fit” about last week’s withdrawn report.

She said: “For reasons of commercial confidentiality, the UK Government does not want us to be open about supplies. Although I do not necessarily agree with the reasoning behind that, we have agreed to the request.”

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